If you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ve had a tough few years. COVID-19 has cast a shadow over all aspects of our lives. Maybe you’ve lost loved ones or missed out on a major event, like your dream wedding. In October of 2021, researchers found that rates of depression have more than tripled over the course of the pandemic. They stated that this increase in depressed individuals is “worse compared to other large-scale traumatic events, such as severe weather, terror attacks, or previous pandemics.”
If you’re struggling, there are a few things you can do to alleviate depression and boost your mood. Here’s what to do when you’re depressed.
Why Am I So Sad?
First, you should do a little reflection. By determining what is upsetting you, you can take concrete steps to improve your circumstances. Here are a few common causes of sadness:
- Isolation – Extended separation from friends, family, and support can make you feel lonely and disconnected.
- Loss – Whether a loved one has passed or you’ve missed out on an opportunity, grief and loss are major factors contributing to depression.
- Rejection – If you didn’t get that new job or a date with the person you like, you may feel the sting of rejection for a while.
- Disappointment – If you missed out on a raise, didn’t get chosen for a new project, or had to cancel your wedding, disappointment can linger.
- Something has ended – Relationships, careers, and hobbies are important to us. If one of these things changes (or ends altogether), you may need time to adjust.
- You’re not healthy – Taking care of yourself means eating well, sleeping, and exercising. If you don’t keep up these routines, it’s hard to feel like yourself.
While sadness is a natural emotion, especially when times are hard, it shouldn’t last for months at a time. If you find yourself feeling down for weeks on end, it may be time to get help for depression.
Am I Depressed? Understanding Depression
Depression can happen suddenly, or it can emerge gradually over time. While it can often be connected with the reasons listed above, many people with this condition say that they don’t know why they’re feeling this way. There isn’t always one specific “reason” for depression. It also won’t always feel like traditional sadness, either – many people with major depressive disorder report numbness and disconnection.
Lesser-known symptoms of depression include:
- Exhaustion; lacking energy
- Anxiety and worry about the future
- Irritability/quickness to anger
- Feeling empty, guilty, or worthless
- Inability to care about things you once enjoyed
- Increase or decrease in hours slept per day
- Difficulty making decisions
- Losing the ability to care for oneself
- Feeling unexplained pain or achiness
- Avoiding contact with others
- Increase or decrease in weight and appetite
- Struggling to maintain relationships
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty remembering things or concentrating
- Speaking and moving more slowly than normal
- Thinking about death or suicide
If these depression symptoms resonate with you, we encourage you to contact a professional to learn more about mental health treatment.
A Note About Unhealthy Coping
Unfortunately, many people believe that if they can ignore their feelings, their depression will go away. “Self-medication” in the form of drinking and drug use is a common response to depressive episodes. Almost one-third of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder also have a problem with alcohol abuse. This pattern can actually worsen depression symptoms in the long term; it also creates its own vicious cycle.
Once someone tries to escape depression by drinking, for example, they will have to consume more and more alcohol over time. As their tolerance develops, they will also need to drink in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, alcohol is a CNS depressant, meaning that it exacerbates one’s depression symptoms.
Risks of substance use while depressed (dual diagnosis) include:
- Isolation caused by drug or alcohol dependency
- Job loss and financial strain
- Health problems triggered by substance abuse
- Mental and metabolic changes that worsen depression
- Losing relationships with loved ones
- Impaired judgment that leads to impulsive, poor decisions
- Worsened depression symptoms caused by depressive substances
- Legal trouble caused by one’s actions while under the influence
What to Do When Depressed
If you’re dealing with depression, there are steps you can take to feel better. If you’re depressed, consider the following.
Stick to a Routine
Feeling depressed can make it difficult to function. Some people find it difficult to shower, get dressed, or clean their homes. When you give in to that temptation and lose your routine, depression tends to worsen. Instead, push back by creating your own daily schedule. Include things like:
- Waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day
- Eating three square meals with appropriate nutrients
- Taking your medications, vitamins, or supplements
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day
- Spending some time outside
- Drinking enough water
Write It Out
Get in touch with your emotions through regular journaling. This is especially helpful for those who aren’t sure why they’re feeling sad. Mood journals are often recommended for people who are depressed. Once you can put words to your emotions, you can begin to deal with them.
Be a Ray of Sunshine
No, this doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be happy. We’re saying to use your resources to bring light into others’ lives. Volunteering, random acts of kindness, and collecting donations for a cause are all excellent ways to bring joy to others. Who knows – doing something good may just make you feel good, too.
Treat Yourself Kindly
When you’re depressed, it’s easy to engage in negative self-talk. These thoughts about yourself can worsen depression, decrease your self-esteem, and reinforce harmful beliefs. You can overcome this by stopping negative thoughts in their tracks. How? Any time you sense the start of some harmful self-talk, interrupt it with something good about yourself.
Isolation and depression are strongly connected. Resist the urge to hide in your room and ignore phone calls. Make the choice to reach out when you’re down. Whether you open up to a friend, ask a parent for advice, or reach out to a therapist, seeking support is the surest way to begin feeling better.
Your Safe Haven When Times are Tough
We understand how it feels to be depressed. At Lakeside-Milam, we offer outpatient mental health programming. We also offer evidence-based addiction treatment services for those dealing with a co-occurring substance use disorder. Our treatment professionals are knowledgeable, compassionate, and ready to help you to heal. Contact our admissions office to learn more about help for depression.